ISOE – Institute for Social-Ecological Research
About the Institute / Working Group
The ISOE - Institute for Social-Ecological Research, founded in 1989 in Frankfurt/Main, is a pioneer in the field of transdisciplinary social-ecological research. Its uniqueness lies in its ability to combine approaches to environmental research drawn from the social sciences (incl. economics) with those from the natural and engineering sciences, and to link this knowledge with that of various political, administrative and social actors. The institute is thus one of the few sustainability research facilities that promote transdisciplinary knowledge from a practical, conceptual and theoretical perspective. The ISOE works on water, environmental planning, consumption, mobility, life style analyses and gender. It has an interdisciplinary staff; the competencies range from economics, sociology and political sciences via planning sciences and engineering to geography, biology, physics and ecology.
Field of Expertise
Within its field of research "Water and Sustainable Environmental Planning" the ISOE carries out transdisciplinary studies and practical consulting services in the field of water policy and management. The aim is to develop methods and concepts for the integration of inter- as well as transdisciplinary research for a sustainable use of water supported by a sound scientific research considering transdisciplinary knowledge of interactions between nature and society. Main topics of the institute's water-related research activities are inter alia
integrated water resources management (IWRM)
social-ecological impact assessment
regional and socio-economic perspectives in water management (e.g. impacts, valuation, conflict potentials)
sustainable water infrastructure management
participatory situation assessments and social-empirical studies (e.g. demand-responsive approach)
water quantity issues (e.g. water demand forecast)
water quality issues (e.g. mobile organics, pharmaceutical residues), and
academic and non-academic capacity development (for Bachelor, Master, PhD students; for administrations as well as for user groups as farmers, school kids, teachers, households, service providers).
The ISOE members have a broad expertise (including methods as well as integrated research) in their specific research fields on water governance, socio-economic analysis, stakeholder participation, scenario development, and integrated and system-based analysis and modelling of social-ecological problem fields. Scientific excellence is expressed in their long-term experiences in promoting participation of societal actors and stakeholders in sustainability research in Europe and Africa (e.g. Namibia) as well as in the indispensable inter-cultural and interdisciplinary competences.
The following list contains current as well as already terminated projects in the field of research "Water and Sustainable Environmental Planning" of the ISOE. Information about projects of other fields of research can be found at homepage of the institute.
Integrated Water Resources Management in northern Namibia - Cuvelai-Basin (CuveWaters) [BMBF, phase I: 2006-2009, phase II: 2009-2012]
Project homepage: http://www.cuvewaters.net
Project information on the ISOE website: http://www.isoe.de/en/projects/current-projects/wasserressourcen-und-landnutzung/cuvewaters/
The international joint research project CuveWaters, in which the ISOE is co-applicant and project head, aims to further the conceptual development and practical implementation of an integrated water resources management (IWRM) by fostering endogenous resources. Water shall be used with a multi-resource mix, which means that water is obtained from different sources and then deployed for different purposes, such as water for drinking and water for gardening. This IWRM-project will be embedded in existing processes and adapted to the specific political, social and economic conditions. With a regional specific IWRM, the livelihoods of the local people shall be secured sustainably to make an important contribution to poverty reduction and adaption to climate change in the region. In doing so, pilot plants of rainwater harvesting, underground water storage, desalination, and sanitation will be installed and adapted to local conditions. Technology transfer and adaptation, knowledge management and stakeholder participation will be essential to optimise water allocation between various sectors. The research activities of the ISOE are particularly: concept development, empirical studies (e.g. monitor and evaluate the operation of the technology), social ecological impact assessment, participation, good governance & institutionalisation, and capacity development (scientific and non-scientific).
Capacity Development for export-oriented water economy [own resources, 2010]
This study analysed the status quo of education and qualification opportunities within the German water economy (academic and non-academic). The outcome has been a synopsis of nowadays situation and suggestions for the German Government to optimise the training situation.
Water 2050: Integrated and Sustainable System Solutions in Water Management by the Year 2050 with Scenarios for northern Africa, India and China [BMBF, 2006-2009]
Project homepage: http://www.water2050.de
Project information on the ISOE website: http://www.isoe.de/en/projects/recent-projects/wasserinfrastruktur-und-risikoanalysen/water2050/
The joint research project, "Water 2050", in which the ISOE is co-applicant and project head, aimed to identify lines of innovation which will permit a clearly improved level of sustainability for water supply and sanitary systems by the year 2050. There will be a concentration on long-term technical (development and installation of pilot plants of rain water harvesting, desalinisation, underground water storage, and sanitation) and social-technical innovations in order to promote a sustainable water management worldwide. Instead of sector-orientated and thus, isolated optimizations of drinking water supply, of waste and waste water management and of energy supply the development of intelligent system solutions was focussed. The system solutions were integrated and incorporated users' requirements, social situations and economic and environmental long-term conditions. The strengthening of the position of companies from the German water industry within the international market was a further project goal. Therefore the political and institutional conditions for innovations and exports have to be improved. The research activities of the ISOE were particularly: scenario development and analyses, and analyses of governance structures for good water governance as well as of recent export and demand potentials.
Strengthening the transdisciplinary research practice (tdPrax) [BMBF, 2006-2009]
Project homepage: http://www.isoe.de/en/projects/recent-projects/transdisziplinaere-methoden-und-konzepte/tdprax/
The project carried out by the ISOE intended to support the conception, implementation and quality control of transdisciplinary research designs by putting together a comprehensive overview of theories and concepts, research strategies and instruments relevant to the practice of transdisciplinary research. Essential research fields were: dealing with uncertainty and lack of knowledge, continuity, building of a research tradition, and adaption capable knowledge for scientific practice. The research focus was on the development of concepts and methods.
netWORKS - Transformations in Network Related Infrastructure Sectors [BMBF, 2002-2005]
Project information on the ISOE website: http://www.isoe.de/en/projects/recent-projects/wasserinfrastruktur-und-risikoanalysen/networks/
The joint research project netWORKS, in which ISOE co-operated with other scientific organizations (e.g. German Institute of Urban Affairs (Difu)), focused on the issue of possible responses to the far-reaching changes currently facing society's water supply and sewage systems in Germany. The project aimed to develop concepts for innovative and sustainable solutions in the fields of water supply and sewage disposal by water re-use, intensification of water use and raising efficiency. As part of the project communal decision makers, state governments and private businesses were addressed and brought into the process. These groups were, on the one hand, target groups as far as the results of the project are concerned, while they were at the same time, in light of their experience and competencies, participants in the process of developing strategies. The research focus of ISOE was mainly on aspects of resource regulation and resource allocation under the conditions of EU-Water Framework Directive and the following changes in the national water law. Furthermore, the heuristic functions of concepts as "sustainable infrastructure management", "regulation", "transformation" or "coupling" were examined, coordinated by the ISOE.
Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre BiK-F [State of Hesse, 2009-2014]
Project homepage: http://www.bik-f.de/root/index.php?page_id=57
Project information on the ISOE website: http://www.isoe.de/en/projects/current-projects/transdisciplinary-methods-and-concepts/bik-f/
The number of species on our planet decreases rapidly. Beside climate change, loss of biodiversity is one of the central issues of mankind. For this reason, the Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (BiKF) in Frankfurt was founded with ISOE as one of the partners. The new centre is supported by the State of Hesse's Initiative for the Development of Scientific and Economic Excellence LOEWE (Landes-Offensive zur Entwicklung Wissenschaftlich-ökonomischer Exzellenz) program for developing scientific and economic excellence in Hesse. The goal of BiKF is to investigate current and past interactions between climate change and biodiversity at the level of organisms by using innovative research approaches and methods. With the gained knowledge reliable predictions can be made about the future. Prerequisite is a transfer of results and knowledge amongst BiKF scientists and players in economy, politics and civil society. Within BiKF ISOE is responsible for knowledge transfer and social-ecological aspects of climate caused biodiversity changes in Germany (Project Area F).
Rhetoric and Realities: Analysing Corporate Social Responsibility in Europe (RARE) [EU/FP6, 2004-2007]
Project homepage: http://www.rare-eu.net
The RARE project aimed to make a substantial contribution to the development of a European approach to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). It sought to improve the understanding of the effectiveness of CSR as a policy instrument and how CSR can in practice benefit sustainable development in the EU. The RARE project was carried out by a multi-disciplinary team of 16 researchers, scientists and consultants from seven leading research institutions from across the EU. Fields of research investigated by ISOE are mainly human resource management, gender and diversity and social dimension of CSR.
Research Proposals for SASSCAL
In addition to proposals which were discussed in detail during the national workshops in July and August 2010, a very interesting future research project could be to analyze requirements and potentials for technology diffusion. Technology developed and already installed or to be installed by the CuveWaters project in Central Northern Namibia (pilot plants of rain water harvesting, desalinization, underground water storage, and sanitation), could be transferred to other areas in Namibia or other countries in southern Africa. The transfer would be accompanied by academic and non-academic qualification measures.
Capacity Development Portfolio of the Working Group
Academic human capacity development: Scenario development, development of a digital atlas, social-ecological impact assessment and social-empirical studies (e.g. demand-responsive approach for community participation), integrated groundwater management
Organisation of summer schools about IWRM
Institutional capacity development:
User groups: Ministries, basin management committees, sub-national/regional administration like rural water supply etc.
Topics: Demand-orientated approaches (e.g. demand-responsive approach for community participation), integrated water resources management, instruments for decision support, foster institutions within the decentralisation process on the sub-regional and local scale
Instruments: Impulses for the creation of administrative functions/roles for being part of such a dialogue, participatory development of suitable seminars and workshops as well as further forms of information exchange
Non-academic human capacity development:
User groups: Farmers, school kids, teachers, employees, households etc.
Topics: Sanitation and water reuse, water harvesting technologies, urban gardening: hygiene, technical training (maintenance and repairs); improvement of agricultural land use (small-scale farming systems)
Instrument: Training courses, knowledge transfer by qualification of local trainers, campaigns for usage of certain technologies and sustainable resource use which also serve as measures for adaptation to climate change, medium into industry sector
Services offered for SASSCAL
The ISOE offers broad thematic, methodical and conceptual expertises mainly in Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) as well as services in capacity development, which are described in detail within the section "Field of Expertise" in detail. In addition, the institute would like to bring particularly its capability to integrate approaches from the social sciences (incl. economics) with those from the natural and engineering sciences, and to link this knowledge with that of various political, administrative and social actors to the work of SASSCAL. The institute is one of the few sustainability research facilities that promote transdisciplinary knowledge from a practical, conceptual and theoretical perspective. In this section, two exemplary case studies (groundwater and sanitation) from current working areas are described to illustrate possible services (e.g. methodical), which can be provided by ISOE. More examples (e.g. rainwater harvesting) will be given at a later stage.
Groundwater desalinisation and underground water storage for improved water supply
Within CuveWaters pilot plants of innovative decentralised solar desalination are developed and artificial underground water storages are constructed to improve the water supply of the local people in Central Northern Namibia. This is due to the fact, that most of the groundwater in the research area is very saline and therefore not suitable for human consumption or irrigation. In doing so, we gained various methods and instruments which we could offer as services within the SASSCAL context: location analyses with accompanying monitoring and evaluation studies and model-based approaches (e.g. groundwater models), social-ecological impact assessment, participation, capacity development and reinforcement of institutional structures. This includes also policy advice with regard to legal and institutional aspects of regulation as a basis for sustainable planning and decision making at regional and local level: twinning structures with respect to the EU-WFD could have promising effects concerning water rights, institutional structures, sustainability criteria, groundwater protection, legal frameworks and upstream/downstream interrelations. Further, the integration of stakeholder knowledge, their interests and abilities as well as the creation of possibilities to handle present problems of water use and resources management, are a central part of an integrated water resource management.
Sanitation and Water Reuse
The project CuveWaters has been working on the diverse aspects of sanitation in central northern Namibia since 2006. It provides competences on transdisciplinary and integrative research methods as social-ecological impact assessment, participatory situation assessments, demand-responsive approach, sustainable infrastructure management and socio-economic analysis. By these competences, CuveWaters can serve as concrete case for conducting further research, generation of knowledge, development of expertise and networks of stake-holders. The contribution of CuveWaters to the Sanitation Strategy of Namibia encompasses not only the issues of water reuse, energy generation and use of fertilisers but also conditions, requirements and restrictions for irrigated cultivation of fruits and vegetables.
Deffner, J., Klintenberg, P., Mazambani, C., Moser-Nørgaard, P. Nantanga, K. & M. Seely (2008): Selected Results from Socio-Ecological Participatory Situation Assessments in Two Sites in Central Northern Namibia. CuveWaters Papers 3.
Hummel, D., Kluge, T., Liehr, S. & M. Hachelaf (2006): Virtual Water Trade. Documentation of an International Expert Workshop. 3.-4. Juli 2006. Frankfurt am Main. ISOE-Materialien Soziale Ökologie 24.
Kluge, T. (2007): Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) as a Key for Sustainable Development. In: Cogoy, M. & K.W. Steininger (Eds): The Economics of Global Environmental Change. International Cooperation for Sustainability. New Horizons in Environmental Economics. Cheltenham (UK), Northampton (MA): Edward Elgar, 134-154.
Kluge, T. & P. Moser (2008): Innovative water supply and disposal technologies as integral part of integrated water resources management - an example from Namibia. International Journal of Water 4(1), 41-54.
Kluge, T. & U. Scheele (2008): Private Sector Participation in Water Supply and Sanitation. A Contribution to Attaining the Millennium Development Goals or Merely the Export of Old Solutions? In: Scheumann, W., Neubert, S.& M. Kipping (Eds.): Water Politics and Development Cooperation. Local Power Players and Global Governance. Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer-Verlag, 205-226.
Kluge, T., Liehr, S., Lux, A., Moser, P., Niemann, S., Umlauf, N. & W. Urban (2008): IWRM Concept for the Cuvelai Basin in Northern Namibia. Physics and Chemistry of the Earth, 33, 48-55.
Kluge, T., Liehr, S., Lux, A. & P. Moser (2010): Integrated Water Resources Management in central northern Namibia. In: Mollinga, P., Bhat, A. & V.S. Saravanan (Eds.): When Policy Meets Reality. Political Dynamics and the Practice of Integration in Water Resources Management Reform. ZEF Development Studies Vol 13. Berlin: Lit Verlag, 151-176.
Liehr, S. (2008). Driving Forces and Future Development Paths of Central Northern Namibia. In: M. Burnes/A. Weaver (Eds.): Exploring Sustainability Science: A Southern African Perspective, chapter 13, 431-467. AFRICAN SUN MeDIA (ASM), Stellenbosch, South Africa.
Lux, A. & C. Janowicz (2009): Water use options for regional development. Potentials of new water technologies in Central Northern Namibia. CuveWaters Papers, No. 6. Frankfurt.
Some of the ISOE publications are available at:
http://www.isoe.de/en/publications/ and http://www.cuvewaters.net/publications.htm